'Christian' Game Leaves Behind A Pile of Corpses

Left Behind: Eternal Forces allows you to command the tribulation force, uncover the truth about worldwide disappearances, and save as many people as possible from the antichrist.
Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series, including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce against Nicolae Carpathia -- the antichrist.
Defend yourselves from the forces of the antichrist. Engage in physical and spiritual warfare!
Use Prayer and Special Abilities to boost the Spirit of your forces! Command over 30 unit types through dozens of missions and online player action!
Defend against the spiritual influences and physical warfare of the antichrist's army through the power of prayer and worship!
-- Left Behind: Eternal Forces game synopsisIt's been a long time coming, but this week I finally received the Christmas gift I've been waiting for for what seems like ages -- my "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game.

This is the first Christmas gift I've ever bought for myself. Normally, I hate Christmas. In fact, I make it a point each year to search out and print out all the news stories from around the world involving thefts from/desecrations of nativity scenes. When I'm finished, I plaster my office area with all the photos of the glum Yuletiders standing around the now-headless Josephs and Marys, and I make this news-mural my private sanctuary, the place I run to when the holidays (and particularly the holiday commercials) get to be too much to take.

The very happiest Christmas of my life, in fact, came two years ago, when some as-yet-unapprehended genius in Knoxville, Tennessee not only beheaded a nativity scene baby Jesus, and not only threw said head through a glass door, but scrawled an upside-down cross on Mary's chest and doused her face with dark paint. It's the paint on Mary's face that got me, and still gets me. What does that mean? What is the culprit trying to say? A great mystery. Every time I think I hate Christmas, I think of that person, and I realize that compared to him, I'm just a puppy fresh out of the womb, crawling around blind on the floor of the world. There is still a Long Way To Go, even for me.

This year's offerings, incidentally, are slightly above average. In Canada there is a developing serial crime story involving an enormous nativity scene in Old Montreal, a scene that goes up every year as part of the Fete de Noel. Last year, thieves boosted the baby Jesus; his body was never recovered. This forced the Fete organizers to literally anchor Jesus to his cradle this year. The precautions were to no avail, however, as this past weekend bandits sawed off the legs of several of the wise men at the knees. Now they are still wise, but about 30% shorter. Some of the huge fiberglass figures also had their eyes poked out. Joseph's cane was also stolen, pried out of his hands. I am amused by the image of a fiberglass Joseph, eyes completely blank and staring straight ahead, fighting and eventually losing a battle with a living human being to keep hold of his fake cane -- and ultimately left standing there in the dark night, empty hand extended.

Then there is this story in Naples: thieves made away with over a million Euros worth of figurines from a nativity scene in the Chiesa di San Nicola alla Carita church. Normally nativity thefts with a monetary motive don't really count for me, but this one was interesting because the only figures the thieves left behind were Jesus and a donkey -- apparently because they were worth significantly less than the others. This, to me, is a cheering holiday detail. So is the article I recently read in the Daily Southtown, one of the Chicago Sun-Times papers, which reported that General Foam Plastics, a North Carolina company that makes nativity scenes, has been besieged this year with calls for replacement Jesus dolls. The same story claimed that police in New Jersey found 27 stolen Jesus dolls in the back of a single car. The article, however, was staunchly pro-Jesus. "Christ is the center of our Christmas," it quoted one theft victim as saying. "You can steal him from our porch, but you can't steal him from our hearts."

This, certainly, is one of the downsides to the nativity-desecration phenomenon. Almost every community has one such incident and it almost always makes the town's local newspaper, accompanied by a sad-looking photo of the ravaged nativity, with its empty manger surrounded by a plastic-eyed Joseph and Mary staring blankly ahead in inanimate bereavement. The community subsequently makes a public appeal to the thief, usually a gothed-out teenager who ends up getting caught by a vigilant parent who finds an unexpected bounty while searching for junior's pot stash in his closet. The teen is then dragged by his eyebrow-stud across the street and forced to re-deposit little plastic Jesus in his manger, at which point the newspapers are contacted and the whole ordeal is re-sold to the community as a "Christmas miracle." You may even see this story reported as a "Second Coming." When I become Minister of the Interior in post-revolutionary America, the reporters who write those stories will be fitted with concrete moccasins and sent to work in logging camps in the Alaskan tundra.

Anyway, back to the Left Behind game, which is the first gift I've ever gotten that actually fills me with Holiday Spirit. For those of you who are not familiar with Left Behind, it is an enormously popular Christian book series which depicts an Armageddon scenario in which the true believers are whisked up to heaven at the Second Coming, literally vanishing out of thin air even as they do things like pilot commercial jet-liners, leaving the rest of us amoral nihilists on earth to bathe in our own blood and generally massacre each other. In the video game, the Believers roam a desecrated New York City landscape (it is highly amusing that both al-Qaeda and the makers of "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" chose to make their masterpiece against a canvas of a burning Manhattan) wasting the forces of the antichrist, leaving huge piles of bodies everywhere they go. It is hard to imagine a product that better encapsulates, in one package, the spirit of both modern American capitalism and modern American Christianity. If you have a serious gore Jones, it's also not a bad video game. The sound track (especially the "Street Fight, Main Theme" kicks ass.

Those of you who were not on the original Left Behind mailing list really missed out, as the emails the company sent out in anticipation of this video game launch are easily some of the greatest examples of unintentional comedy ever to grace the internet. From the start, the company asked its customers to assist them with prayer, and as such sent out regular "prayer requests," for instance this letter asking us to pray for a good reception at a Christian retail convention:
Left Behind Eternal Forces for the PC is getting closer to completion everyday, and we appreciate your prayers!
We would ask that you keep the Left Behind Games staff in your continued prayers as we get closer to our release date, from spiritual warfare, and protection for our families.
We will be attending the 2006 International Christian Retail Show in Colorado on April 10th to the 13th, please pray that God will bless our presence at his show.
The company was a little quiet after that, but as the release neared and it began focusing on the inevitably problematic marketing campaign, it increasingly asked for prayer help with its promotional efforts. Here's one from October:

Left Behind Prayer Requests:

  1. Wisdom as we prepare our promotional strategies

  2. Travel safety as our team attends meetings and interviews

  3. Unity as a team and that our efforts bring glory to our Lord

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. God bless you!

As the launch neared, the requests began to be directed towards the reviewers:

Left Behind: Eternal Forces will be available at stores this weekend! Thank you for helping to make this happen. We are praising God! Please keep the game in your prayers.

  1. Critics and reviewers will give positive feedback on the game

  2. Church and youth leaders will see the potential of using the game as an outreach tool.

  3. Players will multiply as they invite their friends to play with them online.

  4. God will bless this game and it will honor Him.

But when the date arrived, the company's "Prayer Team leader," Annette Brown, began to get more and more specific in her corporate prayer goals:

  1. Pray God will put it on the heart of the consumers to purchase our product at select Walamart [sic] Stores (top 100 stores) that have our invetory [sic].

  2. Next weekend is the biggest shopping weekend of the year, pray the game hits record sales for PC Games.

  3. The press is still reviewing the game, pray they will be kind in their reviews.

I mean, how twisted do you have to be to pray that consumers will buy your product at select Wal-Mart stores? Wouldn't you hesitate and call a psychiatrist before sending that out into cyber-space?

The requests from Thanksgiving week:

Please pray that our sales will sky rocket this weekend. We have a big God that promises to surpass all that we could ask of Him.

Once reviewers got hold of the game, and started to point out the odd dichotomy between its supposedly Christian message and its corpse-strewn video landscape, the company began to pray for good media appearances:

Prayer requests:

  1. God will give Troy, Robilyn and Jeff wisdom during their many interviews.

  2. God will use these interviews to open the hearts and minds of the listeners to the true intentions and purpose of the game.

  3. God will bless us as we develop and choose our sales force.

Anyway, if you haven't bought it already, I strongly advise everyone reading this to log on to leftbehind.com and buy the game. It is the perfect American holiday gift. Celebrate the birth of Jesus by wasting dozens of people at a time, using a provocative variety of Christ-sanctioned weapons! You can even operate tanks to destroy whole areas of New York City! Who knows, you might even get to kill Ethan Hawke ("slumming" in a ball cap and dirty jeans) in a Marxist bookstore-coffeeshop on 8th street! Kill, kill, kill!

Merry Christmas, America.

Watch the video trailer HERE.

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